Haggle on the high street
Tips & tricks for hidden discounts –
If you don’t ask, you don’t get
We British will banter and bull with the best if we’re somewhere where snake-charmers wind cobras around their necks. Yet on home turf, we become complacent, lily-livered cowards, meekly accepting the first price we’re given.
Over the years, Brits have accepted haggling as rude and impolite, when it’s neither. This misconception has left the big stores with their profits intact and only the knowing few with big bargains.
Haggling cuts shops’ profits. But if you wouldn’t buy at a higher price, this way they still make a sale.
The law behind this
When you walk into a shop or phone a call centre, until money’s changed hands, no contract’s been struck. By law, no store has to accept your cash, even if you’re paying the ticketed price.
Equally, you don’t have to accept the ticketed price. What counts is the bargain struck, so why not ask them to lower the price? After all…
What’s the worst that can happen? – They say “no”.
Top 22 haggling tips
Haggling can be daunting, yet there’s nothing to be scared of. Here are some top tactics.
The beginner’s haggle – get them to chuck in something for free
Customer service assistants often say they’re not allowed to give discounts, but if you’re new to haggling, an easy start point is asking them to throw something in on top. Whether it’s free cables with TVs, polish with shoes or a fridge with a kitchen, if you need an add-on, try not to pay extra for it.
Look for already discounted items
If the price is already reduced – in a sale, manager’s clearance or online promotion – there’s often more flexibility. The boundaries have already been flexed and the psychological loss for the salesperson is reduced as they’ve already given up on the idea of getting full price.
Towards the end of a sale is a golden haggling opportunity, as shops are keen to reclaim their display space for new stock. It’s worth pointing this out in a friendly way.
Buy in bulk
Discounts are often available for bulk-buying. This may mean stocking up for a year, buying combinations of products, or even going with a gang of mates who want to buy something similar.
The advantage you have is you’re going to hand over a lot more business, and you may secure a reduction because of it.
Haggle via online help chats
Spot a window offering live chat with a help person when browsing an online retailer? Don’t dismiss it – this can be a route to hidden deals. To test this, we chatted to 10 retailers via live help, asking a few questions about a product before requesting a discount.
Three stores offered us discounts: Nike a 10% off code; Dell £55 off a £779 laptop; and Dyson an extra £10 off a £350 vacuum that was already in the sale, plus a free tool kit
Who to haggle with? Senior yes, head honcho no
If you’re haggling face-to-face, an assistant manager or supervisor is a good person to bargain with. They have more discretion than most of the shop staff, understand the retail game a bit better and are used to pleasing customers. Go to the very top, though, and the person will be short of time, and not bothered about one small sale.
Pretend you want a warranty
Sales staff have weekly, monthly or quarterly targets on the amount of warranties they can sell. Reaching this target’s often crucial to them, so it gives consumers a real bargaining tool on products they’re likely to flog warranties with.
The best bit is you’re free to change your mind within 45 days of purchasing under The Supply of Extended Warranties on Domestic Electrical Goods Order 2005. So buy the knocked-down item then cancel the policy for a full refund. (This applies to service agreements and insurance products.)
Don’t fill the silence
As negotiations come to a close, a classic sales technique is staying silent. They want you to accept the price just to fill the awkward silence. Make them fill it with a cheaper offer.
Flaws mean discounts
If you’re shopping in person, look for the tiniest of dents or scratches in electrical appliances, or marks on clothing. This makes them more difficult to flog. Clothing can be cleaned and your new fridge’ll soon be knackered anyway.
It’s worth noting that even if you buy something knowing it has a fault, you still retain your consumer rights if something else goes wrong. For example, if you buy a washing machine with a small dent and it goes on the blink a week later, you can still get a refund.
Play them off against each other
Don’t target retailers in isolation, play a number off against each other. This has two advantages: it gives you a solid foundation and it prods their competitive instincts in your favour, as they want to prove they’re better than the opposition.
Many high street retailers will price-match internet prices when pushed. Print the results or show them on your mobile and see if the shop will match the price. If you’re feeling naughty, keep your thumb over delivery costs.
Independent stores are great places to haggle
Negotiating with independent retailers, where you can speak directly to the owner, is often a better bet than a chain, as there’s more leeway.
This is because in owner/retailer shops, the owner has complete discretion, so a smile and a hint that you’ll become a regular shopper can work wonders.
Better still, become a regular. Somewhere you give your custom frequently is likely to look after you. Put all your business through them, provided they’ll price-match the best deals you can get elsewhere.
Companies are more amenable to haggling at slower times of year, when fewer customers are after their wares. Do the exact opposite of what firms expect you to do: go for cameras with special Christmassy packaging in January; lawnmowers when it’s snowing; electric heaters in July.
It’s one of the reasons the weeks before Christmas are perfect months to buy home insurance and car insurance. Insurers aren’t busy, they want business, you’re giving them business: expect a discount.
Try to find out their month or year end
Towards the end of a firm’s financial year or monthly target, retailers and sales people are often much more willing to haggle. At this point, it’s the volume rather than profit that really counts, so they’re willing to cut margins down to a sliver, just to make sales. This is also the time when head office sends down special deals and sweeteners.
If you’re in doubt about when a firm’s financial month/year end is, assume it’s the calendar month and the tax year. As a general rule, the end of Saturday is fortuitous and the last Saturday of the month is the hottest date in the haggling calendar.
Don’t commit to financing
Don’t talk about your payment method until it’s necessary. Sellers prefer debit cards rather than credit cards, so request a discount for using a debit card.
If a firm has its own financing options, it may be worth hinting you’re interested, without committing, as there’s often good commission on finance. They’ll be more disposed to give a bigger discount. Though don’t actually use their financing options: they’re generally expensive.
Prices ending in 7, 8 or 1 mean it’s clearance – a perfect haggling opportunity
Watch out for obsolete products, such as old DVD players and cameras, usurped by newer models. If it’s the last one left, offer to “help them clear their shelves for restocking”.
It’s worth knowing electrical shops sometimes use price codes to secretly communicate to staff which models need to be shifted quickly to make way for new stock.
According to shop staff we asked, the key to these codes lies in the last digit of a price. While most prices end in 9 (or 0), if one ends in 7 or 8 (eg, £19.97, £109.98 etc), it usually means that model has been discontinued. If the price ends with a 1, eg, £5.91, the item is often especially old clearance stock.
Pick quiet times to negotiate
Try not to haggle when a shop is crammed with other customers. The last thing salespeople are interested in is reducing their margins when they can see lots of people willing to buy. Go during times of shopping serenity, such as midweek mid-mornings.
Don’t settle unnecessarily
Salesmen often have full discretion to drop the price. Yet a common ploy is to routinely tell customers they have to check with the manager beyond a certain level.
This puts a break in negotiations and, to try and stall further haggling, they can return and say “sorry, it’s not possible, I can only drop it so far”, without looking bad with the customer.
Often customers were fooled into settling at that point. Remember, even if the salesperson is telling the truth and does need the manager’s permission, make them go back to the manager with an offer, or get them to bring the manager to you.
Set a target price
Use shopping comparison websites to set a target price before you shop. Shopbots are special shopping robots that search the net to find the cheapest CDs, books, games or owt else.
Know your market
Before diving in, do some haggling reconnaissance work, just as a professional negotiator would. Use the internet and search to discover what offers are on, then use them as a bargaining tool. Say you’re buying a camera and you unearth that Canon recently gave £50 cashback on your desired model. This could well mean the price is negotiable.
Don’t be afraid to walk away
If you’re nearly ready to buy, start to use true sales negotiation language. Let them know the exact conditions they must meet to close the sale. But don’t be afraid to walk away if they won’t give you what you want – you can always try elsewhere.
Use our stock haggling phrases
Haggling can feel unnatural to us stiff-upper-lipped Brits. If you feel shy, try one of these top bargaining gambits.
“Hmm… I’m considering this engagement ring, it looks nice.”
Never ever walk in and announce: “My girlfriend adores this ring, it’s the only one left in town and she’ll dump me if I don’t get it”. The salesperson will think: KER-CHING.
Even if you absolutely love it, keep a poker face until you’ve shaken on it. Though let them know you’re seriously interested in doing business there and then – at the right price. You’re more likely to score a deal if they know you’re in a position to buy.
Get sale prices when sales have finished
If it was on sale, but that’s ended, you know they’re willing to accept that price. And if a kitchen company offered you 10% off as long as you bought before 20 Oct, chances are that price will be available after the offer too.